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Yili Yogurt Fined for Labeling Practice

China's diary giant Yili was thrown into hot water Tuesday as a product watchdog included one of its yogurt manufacturers in a blacklist.


The Beijing Hongda Dairy Product Company paid a fine in October in connection to the printing of production dates in a yogurt product.


Tuesday, it was included in a quality concern blacklist released by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Quality Inspection and Supervision. Several other Beijing producers were also included in the list.


Officials said the company printed a production date two days into the future in the packaging of yogurt.


The bureau spokesman said the company's practice violates product quality regulations and consumers' legal rights.


The bureau refused to give a detailed explanation or the amount of the fine handed down to the yogurt producer.


On October 9, quality inspectors carried out an on-site inspection of the company's workshop in the Beijing suburb of Huairou.


They found that the production date of yogurt which was still under production was printed as October 11.


The shelf life of the product is 14 days.


Shen Guirong, sales manager of the company told China Daily the yogurt needs two days of post-fermentation and cooling after it is manufactured.


"We printed the date when it went down the production line but production was still under way," said Shen.


Shen also said her company's practice is in accordance with industry regulations.


In a document on how to define the production date, the National Standardization Commission for Food Industry said the production date is the day and time when the product is finally outputted.


Though Shen insisted that her company obeyed the related regulations, it has already paid the fine imposed on 9 October.


She did not say how much the fine was.


"Now, we are really troubled since the bureau unveiled the list yesterday," said Shen, adding that several supermarkets in the Chinese capital have refused to sell any products with the Yili brand.


A business officer from Yili's competitor, Sanyuan Milk, expressed regrets for the company's trouble.


"I personally believe that the watchdog should pay attention to quality of the product, instead of the production date," said Sanyuan's Li Wangzhong.


He agreed with Shen that the particular type of yogurt needs a period of time after it is packaged and goes down the production line.


"The problem is that there is no law or regulations that carefully define the production date of products with short shelf-life," said Li.


For some products, such as yogurt, the quality watchdog should require producers to print both the starting and finishing production time, Li suggested.


One of China's leading dairy producers, Yili has seen sound development in the first half of the year, spurred by a rapidly growing dairy market.


Between January and June, the Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group Co Ltd posted major business income totaling 4.344 billion yuan (US$518 million), 48.43 percent up from the 2.926 billion yuan (US$353.4 million) a year ago.  

(China Daily November 24, 2004)

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